SEPTEMBER 20, 2021 

Watch: Dragon Gate Network


The high-flying Masquerade trio falls in their third defense of the Triangle Gate belts. This marks the first time in Kaito Ishida’s career that he’s held the Triangle Gate championship and the first time for Eita since 2014. 

While this was not the strongest Masquerade vs. R.E.D. match to take place this year (as they seem to do their best work on smaller televised shows), this was yet another strong outing in the war that has raged on between these two units this entire year. I really liked the loaded up R.E.D. trio here, and hopefully this gives both Eita and Ishida some direction that they desperately need. There’s a level of physicality that both of them bring to the table that adds a lot to these trios matches. Ishida, in particular, bowling a strike with La Estrella’s body by throwing him down to the mat and out of the ring and onto the floor, stood out as a particularly vicious spot in this 12-minute encounter. 

After early heel dominance, Masquerade fought back, primarily off the backs of Jason Lee and Dragon Dia. It seemed like Estrella took a backseat in this match, which is noticeable given that it was one of his first big spots without Diamante across the ring from him. Lee went toe-to-toe with Eita, while Dia did everything he could to escape the sheer brutality that Ishida brings to the table. 

Their efforts were thwarted, however, by HYO’s big brain. After laying in the weeds for most of the match, HYO sprung out and caught Dragon Dia with a Panther Clutch for the win. Objectively very good, but they’ve peaked higher in prior matches this year. ***1/2 


Mike Spears and I deeply questioned why this match needed to exist on the PPV (instead of the dark match) on the most recent Open the Voice Gate podcast. Was the match offensive? No. Did it accomplish anything? Other than Jae taking some more digs at Tominaga’s hairline, no. The dreaded Punch Clutch pinned Problem Dragon in 4 minutes. **


Another “why did this match exist?” match. It’s hard to complain because it was under two minutes, but I feel like I should complain that it lasted over a minute. Yoshida pinned all three people at the same time. NR 


I like touting my correct takes as often as possible. Kazma Sakamoto working out in Dragongate? You heard it from me first. The Young Bucks being the best tag team ever? I gladly lead the charge on that one. Wrestling being better with CM Punk involved than without? I shouted about it for 7 years. U-T being a steady hand and ring general in Dragongate is one I got wrong, however. 

Never in a million years did I expect the former grunt of the Millennials to be the well-rounded professional that he is today. I am blown away by how good he is, not only at his peak, but on a consistent basis. I trust U-T to work hard and put on good matches far more than I do most men on this roster and there was a time as he battled injuries on the undercard that I saw no use in him whatsoever. In a match with three of the 100 greatest wrestlers ever in Mochizuki, Doi, and Horiguchi, and one of the most influential junior heavyweights ever, U-T shined the brightest. I get the sense that Ultimo Dragon, a man who’s seen them all and wrestled every big name, genuinely enjoys working with U-T. It’s a narrative I’m hesitant to push because I have nothing factual to base it off of, but I’ve seen old man Ultimo work for a paycheck. No one loves going through the motions quite like Ultimo. When he’s in the ring with U-T, though, Ultimo is doing everything he can to turn back the clock. It’s so exciting to witness. 

This will be a polarizing match for a lot of people, not in the sense of whether it is a MOTY or a DUD, but over the excitement that a match like this fills them with. This is my style of wrestling. I loved everything they did. FJK brought a ferocity to Mochiuzki and Doi that I feel has been missing from his Natural Vibes persona, U-T and Ultimo wrestled classic lucharesu at a blistering pace, and Horiguchi played his role perfectly, being fearful of Ultimo, only to be embarrassed in the end by a La Magistral that was held well beyond the three count. 

In the same way that a big plunder match can get people’s juices going, this is exactly what I want from wrestling. There was a little bit of everything in here for me. Rarely does wrestling feel this fun, especially in Japan, as they slowly march towards two years of hindered atmospheres. Ota Ward wasn’t the raucous crowd that they would be under normal circumstances, but for one match I was able to put all of that behind me for a match that truly spoke to me. I loved this. ***3/4 


Dragongate has done it again. I don’t know what else there is to say. 

In the Dragongate era (Dragongate being single-spaced, aka post-OWE split), the promotion debuted 10 trainees, including the Iihashi brothers. Those 10 are Kota Minoura, Dragon Dia, Strong Machine J, SB KENTo, Funky “Jacky” Kamei, Sora Fujikawa, HipHop Kikuta, La Estrella, and now Ishin and Riki Iihashi. Four of those men wrestled on title matches on this show. SBK is the Brave Gate Champion. Kikuta challenged for the Dream Gate before taking time off to heal his bad shoulder. The weak link of this class is Sora Fujikawa, who missed a year after dealing with what could essentially be described as a broken face, but if the early glimpses of Fujikawa foreshadow his career, he’ll be in title matches sooner rather than later. The same thing can be said for Ishin and Riki. This is an embarrassment of riches, an abnormality of success in an exhausting dojo system that so many other promotions have failed at. 

Casting their in-ring work aside for a second, the fact that Ishin and Riki came across like superstars in this match cannot be ignored. We saw them come up in the FUTURE system, working basic exhibitions to time limit draws. They looked like they had potential then. They now look like different humans. None of their world beater charisma came through when they were trading holds in proto-grapplefuck exhibitions. With the bright lights on? Riki Iihashi is a fucking star. Ishin isn’t far behind, in fairness. 

I would put the rocket pack on these guys based on their charisma alone, but the fact that they can so obviously work is a testament to just how good this promotion is. There’s a beauty to wrestling when what’s being displayed in the ring is true, and the brotherly bond between Riki and Ishin is undeniable. Ishin took a powerbomb from Don Fujii, but when it came time for Riki to fall to a similar fate, he rolled through with a jackknife cradle for a nearfall. When the latter was locked in Don Fujii’s signature HIME crab, the former rescued him with a series of chops that had the spark of a youngster and the impact of an aging veteran. The dueling octopus stretch spot from this match will likely be used in every promo package featuring these two until the end of time – or at least it should. Japan’s first supernova wrestlers paid homage to their heritage while showcasing that they are the future. 

I don’t know how you have a better debut than this. They should spend the next year either teaming or wrestling with Don Fujii (and ideally Masaaki Mochizuki) until they are ready to flatten whatever main eventer steps in their way. 

In the meantime, they’ll be eating a lot of finishes. This particular time, Ishin fell victim to Kanda’s Diving Elbow Drop. This is essential viewing. Don’t wait until the rest of the world is talking about these two rookies, be the one to start the conversation. ***1/2 


I have been very open about my fears regarding the current main event scene. YAMATO’s Dream Gate reign from five years ago and the failures of it have been in the forefront of my mind lately. BxB Hulk winning this match in such dominant fashion does not calm my nerves. 

It’s not fair to frame this match in a way that directly correlates the finish with the Dream Gate scene, but it’s impossible to ignore Hulk and YAMATO’s history and the fact that YAMATO is without an obvious next challenger. I found the sequences involving Keisuke Okuda and SB KENTo to be far more exciting than whatever was going on between the heavy-hitters in this match. I was hoping this would pave the way to a DK vs. SBK Brave Gate match, but no such moves were made. Alas, it was a flat multi-man match on a PPV that really needed a great match. Hulk leveled Kagetora with a First Flash for the win. ***


This result would’ve sent me into convulsions a year ago. In 2021, this is undoubtedly the right decision. Diamante is, to me, the undoubted Most Improved Wrestler for a second year in a row. He went from bad-to-good in 2020, then upped his game once more and is now legitimately great. He’s also a hunk who chooses to wear a mask and a tank top. Nothing in this world makes sense. 

Rarely am I unsure of how to tackle a match when it comes to reviewing it, but this one falls into that category. I loved what they did. Diamante jumped Shun with a springboard dropkick during his entrance, something that rarely ever happens in this promotion, then proceeded to grind his ankle into oblivion for 10 minutes. Structurally, the match was dynamite. They set out to tell the story of Shun’s injured ankle and that’s exactly what they did. It wasn’t the most enthralling 10 minutes, but it was an effective stretch of time.

It wasn’t the objectively great match that I wanted it to be, the type of match that I could point to in a way to prove Diamante’s newfound greatness, but I still enjoyed what they did. The referee stopped the match after Shun wailed in agony over Diamante’s submission attempt. Diamante is a killer.

To make matters worse, Diamante unmasked the former Dream Gate champion after the match. ***1/4


With this win, the Natural Vibes duo has made their second successful title defense.  

I’m just not sure what they’re doing to do with Strong Machine J. In the most shocking result of the night, Strong Machine J failed to secure Twin Gate gold with his partner, the newest machine, Strong Machine K. K ended up voluntarily unmasking during this match, revealing himself to be Shuji Kondo, as if anyone didn’t already know. 

Bizarre unmasking aside, I didn’t think this match ever found its flow. I kept on waiting for Strong Machine J to make an opportunity. I wanted him to have a spot that would make me believe in him going forward. That spot never came. I think there’s immense value to having him on the roster, but I still worry that his gimmick is as big of a gift as it is a curse. He was presented in such an unbeatable manner during his first seven months that I’m just not sure how he recovers from it. Taking the fall here helps, as he was the recipient of a King Press from King Shimizu, but there is a cloud hanging over J right now that he just can’t seem to shake. The Natural Vibes duo had much better matches at Kobe World and Speed Star Final. ***


YAMATO secured his first successful defense of his fifth reign as Dream Gate champion with this win. 

For a brief moment in time, it seemed like the Open the Dream Gate championship was shifting in an experimental direction. Once Dragongate kingpin Masato Yoshino lost the belt to PAC at the end of 2018, the title found itself in a number of new hands. From PAC it went to Ben-K, Ben-K to Doi, then Doi to Eita, who eventually dropped it to Shun Skywalker, who fell to YAMATO on August 1. Outside of Doi, a man steeped in Dream Gate tradition, those names listed brought an energetic energy to the title that dramatically contrasted the reverence that CIMA, Mochizuki, and Shingo all brought to it. The structure of the matches noticeably shifted, especially during Skywalker’s reign, with Skywlaker opting for big moves with high risks early on. His pacing became a strong suit, something I never thought I would say about him as he was working his way up the card. 

With YAMATO being in control of the title, the match structure of these main events has shifted back into the pattern of yesteryear. That’s not a knock on YAMATO by any means, this was a great match, but the difference between what he and Minoura did here with YAMATO as the driving force and what YAMATO did with Skywalker in August with Skywalker as the driving force, is remarkable. 

After a long period of grappling, mostly with the champion in control, these two combined forces to put forth an electric finishing stretch that was in desperate need of a real crowd. Minoura, who has pinned anyone in sight over the last 14 months, simply could not beat the most accomplished Dragongate wrestler of all-time for the second time this year. He threw his Gang finisher at him and it didn’t work. His signature Engranaje crossface failed him. His dreaded Bevel Gear flash pin failed to net him a win. Even the Sol Naciente, Masato Yoshino’s finisher that was gifted to him and used for the first time here, could not put YAMATO away. 

Minoura didn’t want to give up without a fight, either, kicking out of not one, but two Galleria’s, before the champion finally put him down with his super-finisher Ragnarok. 

This was exhausting in every way you’d want it to be. Both men were at the top of their game for one of the promotion’s biggest shows of the year. YAMATO is starting off this reign on the right foot in the ring, something he struggled to do when he held the title five years ago. As for Minoura, this isn’t the last time we’ll see him in this position. In fact, the next time he has a chance to grab this title, he might just do it. ****1/2 

Final Thoughts

Dangerous Gate 2021 had great matches, yet was strangely unsatisfying. It’s the issue Dragongate has had all year. They continue to get on base when they really need a home run. The undercard was busy, albeit inoffensive, and a number of big matches delivered, but I can’t help but feel like this show somehow could’ve been better. Are my expectations too high? Perhaps. But I truly think this roster has more in them. Thumbs in the middle, leaning up for Dangerous Gate.